New York City is a place where change is inevitable, and where change comes, real estate development follows. It would not be the place it is without it. However the political climate during the Bloomberg era hasput this into hyper drive.
I ran into my old friend Kim Masson, who is part of Save Greenpoint, a group that is spearheading the opposition to Greenpoint Landing. Their issues with the development are not just the obvious ones most people are aware of. This is not just about being opposed to new massive buildings that will drive up rents and change the face of the neighborhood. The implications here are far more drastic.
Greenpoint is a neighborhood that has already dealt with one of the largest oil spills in the history of oil spills, and countless environmental mini disasters. I want people to be more aware of this situation so I decided to interview Kim so she can break this all down.
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GP: In a nutshell, what are the main environmental dangers of these developments going through?
Kim: It is a known fact that when the city rezoned the Williamsburg/Greenpoint waterfront back in 2005, they never did a full Phase 1 Environmental Testing. The city instead relied on DOB violations and street observations to determine levels of toxicity! Newtown Creek at that time wasn’t even deemed a federal Superfund Site, despite it’s role in this country’s 3rd largest oil spill; we’re talking three times larger than the Exxon-Valdez. Of the 22+ acres of land that Greenpoint Landing is about to develop, there is over 58,000 gallons of petroleum buried in underground storage tanks. The development wants to put an elementary school across the street from another Superfund site that is leaking plasticizers under the street. It almost seems criminal, but the reality is they can put schools on toxic ground–just ask residents in the Bronx who sued the city over the same exact issue.
GP: What are some of the obvious lies touted by the interested parties in order to get this development pushed through?
Kim: They’ve tested the soil and said it isn’t toxic. I’m not buying it. That whole area is one gigantic brownfield site. There are already documented reports of oil leaks on those lots. How can you honestly tell people that land is clean?
GP: The city that is undergoing a massive affordable housing crisis, our elected officials for the most part fall in line with these developers who literally will cater to the 1%. Thoughts?
Kim: Real Estate is king. Bloomberg and Amanda Burden have rezoned 1/3rd of the city in 12 years. I don’t see how this has improved anything but create a bigger real estate bubble and driven massive displacement. It saddens me to think the concept of neighborhood is rapidly becoming a distant thing.
GP: As we have seen, a bit south in Williamsburg with Northside Piers and The Edge, in short time the neighborhood in the existing area becomes something so unrecognizable it no longer resembles the community that once stood there. How drastically will this effect Greenpoint, and how will it be different than what happened in Williamsburg?
Kim: Condo corridor? Sadly, if nothing is done, Greenpoint is poised to become the same thing but worse because we’ve got the G train.
GP: Years ago, the MTA looked at the G train as a line very few cared about. Even if more ferry service is added, how can Greenpoint possibly sustain such added pressure on its public transportation if this happens?
Kim: It can’t. Our infrastructure is crumbling, literally. The MTA has said it can’t afford to add more cars to the G train because it will cost millions. I wonder if it couldn’t be done if MTA officials cut a bit from their six figure salaries.
GP: Greenpoint has already had more than enough environmental issues to deal with. How much more would this compound the original problems?
Kim: It’s all about the cumulative effects of brownfield cleaning. Remediation begins with breaking ground. This releases tons of toxic vapors which permeate into the air and into our apartments. When I discovered the air-quality inside my apartment was compromised from a brownfield clean-up behind my building, that was a sobering reality. When you add together this large scale remediation being done at the same time to all the nasty chemicals that are being burped up from the dredging on Newtown Creek, we’re talking about a lot of exposure to some highly toxic things. People really need to know what’s going on because it is not just about the towers, it’s about what’s in the air we are breathing.
GP: How is the community board reacting to this stuff, not just the contruction but the enviromental aspect of the situation?
Kim: The only time I hear about toxicity is from residents speaking up about the cancer they got since living here. Most of them are women, all under the age of 40. There is all this talk about affordable housing at the community board hearings, and yet no one wants to address the big elephant in the room. It’s really distressing.
GP: How are the local elected official reacting to this? Often we see people in New York politics in the pockets of developers. Are there any champions of the people out there or have they been bought off and who are they?
Kim: State Assemblyman Joseph Lentol has been very vocal about the environmental impacts issue surrounding the developments. While he is working up in Albany to address the cumulative environmental impacts, my group Save Greenpoint has also been talking with City Councilman Stephen Levin about the issue. State Assemblywoman Joan Millman from Gowanus just responded to our petition. So finally it seems people are listening.
GP: It looks like Bill DeBlasio will be the next Mayor of New York city. What are the implications of this? Will wee see more more over development if he becomes mayor?
Kim: Bill De Blasio seems to be in favor of high density developments, so it could be possible we will see more of Bloomberg’s land use policies applied under his leadership.
GP: In all honesty, what are the chances that the people can stop what is happening here, and if and when this does happen, what is the best and worse case scenarios for Greenpoint?
Kim: Well we know what’s the worst case scenario is a wall of 40 story luxury towers. But if people show up at the meetings and make a lot of noise about what they don’t like about these developments, we can force decision makers to doing something for our community. Signing our petition will also help.
People need to know this thing isn’t over until the fat lady sings. Your voice means something, so use it people!
Check out our website savegreenpoint.org for more ways you can make a difference or learn about the developments and how it will effect residents.